Jim Petersen, 83, who lives alone in an assisted living community outside Denver, recently had pneumonia. But rather than be admitted to the hospital, he was offered another choice: hospital-level treatment in his home.
Petersen didn’t hesitate. “In plain English, there’s no place like home,” he says. “You can get good care in a hospital, but you never sleep really good.”
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, a growing number of older patients like Petersen are more eager than ever to avoid hospitalization. Depending on their condition, many can receive the full complement of professional services in their home, paid for by Medicare as if they were in the hospital.
In Petersen’s case, nurses and physician’s assistants came to his home to monitor him and administer antibiotics. “With the technology today, they can take X-rays and EKGs and blood work right here in my apartment,” he says. “They were just great. I stayed here and recovered.”
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His physician, Dr. Manny Diaz, used to work in a hospital. But then he was offered the position of medical director with Advanced Care-Denver, an arm of DispatchHealth. “The opportunity that I believe will be the future of healthcare, moving as much as we can effectively and safely into people’s homes to provide comfort at a lower cost, was something I couldn’t pass up,” Diaz says.
In-home visits “invert the relationship” between doctor and patient, he adds. In a hospital, the patient wears a gown and lies in a bed while doctors do rounds. In contrast, Diaz is invited to enter the patient’s home.
During an appointment with Petersen, Diaz commented on a scenic painting of ducks. The two discovered they both loved fishing and hunting and shared roots in northern Illinois.
Being in a patient’s home “humanizes the patient and the provider,” Diaz says. “It makes the ability to connect with a person that much easier, and it’s important clinically, determining a plan of care that will work in that context.”